8 Biggest Takeaways of the Birds 2-0 Start

So, here we are through two rather interesting games of the Eagles season, and the Birds sit at 2-0, including a shaky home win against a really bad team and an impressive road win over a pretty good team.  It doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as you get there, but let’s take a look at what we have seen so far in these 120 minutes of game action.  Here are my biggest takeaways through the first two games:

1). Nick Foles looks shaky
I know, it is strange for the #1 takeaway for a 2-0 team to be a negative one.  It is even stranger for that negative to be about the QB who is 2nd in the league in passing yards and is in charge of the league’s highest scoring offense.  I have come around and am officially a “Foles guy” now, but we have to be honest – he looks a bit shaky.  The first half against Jacksonville was abysmal, and the first half against Indy wasn’t all that much better.  He has missed open receivers and has misthrown several short passes and bubble screens.  While he did rally both times and showed some real resiliency, he does not seem to have the same poise and accuracy that he had last year.  But, let’s remember, it’s early.  They’re 2-0.  And, they lead the league in points scored, so we will take 19 of those “shaky” games if they turn out the same result.  I am actually encouraged by the fact that both Foles and McCoy have been relatively quiet and they have 64 points and 2 wins in two games.

2). The two guys picked ahead of Foles look FANTASTIC
Foles – the 3rd-round pick – may be the most nationally well-known Eagle drafted in the 2012 draft, but the two guys the Eagles drafted before their franchise QB have are on the brink of legit stardom – and they are both on the other side of the ball.  Mychal Kendricks has shown flashes of brilliance in each of his first two seasons in the NFL, but he was annoyingly (at least to me) inconsistent.  This year, he looks like a total stud across the board.  Now, we don’t really know the extent of the calf injury he suffered Monday night, but before he left, he had put in 7 incredible quarters of football in 2014 – making plays all over the field.  He can cover tight ends and even some slot receivers when needed, but he can also get to the QB and is a killer against the run.  Now, I haven’t been as high on him as most in his first 2 years, but right now, he looks like the centerpiece of a potentially outstanding defense for the next decade.

The other budding superstar is a guy that I have actually been higher on than most since being drafted #11 overall in 2012 – Fletcher Cox.  I know that he didn’t exactly “pop” in either of his first two years, but it is happening now right before our eyes.  He still leaves a little to be desired in his ability to get to the QB (which is always going to make the casual observer mark him down a peg), but his ability to set the edge in the run game and pursue ballcarries (or scrambling QBs) is incredible.  And, I think that his lack of consistent QB pressure has more to do with the fact that he is still learning the ins and outs of the 3-4 (he is much more natural in the 4-3).  This year, however, he is starting to eat up multiple blockers in the pass game, which will, hopefully, lead to more QB pressure across the defense.  Either way, Fletcher Cox is becoming a real star in this league and, along with Kendricks, the ridiculously underrated Connor Barwin and the ever-steady Demeco Ryans, could be the centerpiece of a defense that has actually looked very, very good through two games.

3).They do miss D-Jax…schematically…but are a significantly better football team without him
This is no real surprise, as he is a dynamic playmaker who makes a lot of things happen even when he doesn’t get the ball.   All his big plays aside, maybe the true value of DeSean Jackson on the field was the impact he had on everyone else in the passing game.  Countless D-coordinators have said, flat-out, that they used to completely tailor their defensive gameplans around containing DeSean.  Safeties would always have to cheat his way, and the #1 corners that “travelled” would always find their way to his side.  Without him out there, the safeties are more free to roam in pass coverage and help in the run game.

HOWEVER…while Chip & Co. are too classy to come out and say it, I think that the team is much better because he is gone.  If you ever get a chance to hear guys like Adam Caplan talk about it (and, very few know more about the inner workings of the Eagles than Caplan), the real problem with Jackson came down to attitude.  Now, that seems like an obvious comment, but Caplan puts a different spin on it and provides stark examples.  Caplan talks about how Chip Kelly had decided midway through last season that they were going to move on without Jackson because he was holding back a lot of what they wanted to do around there.  It wasn’t the gang ties; it wasn’t the cursing out of the coaching staff; it wasn’t even his stark refusal to buy-in to the smoothies and sleep monitors.  It was simple – the thing that Kelly’s offense gets the most press for is its tempo.  And, Jackson was slowing them down.  That tempo doesn’t just come from “hurrying up” on Sunday afternoon when you have the ball.  That tempo comes from intricate practice schemes, where the players practice over and over getting tackled, jumping up, throwing the ball to the ref, and running back to the line.  Jackson never wanted to do that – particularly in practice.  Kelly believes (according to Caplan) that Jackson’s refusal to take this uptempo style at practices (and oftentimes games) seriously enough slowed the whole team down.  So, he cut him.  And, the tempo is soaring through two games and is possibly the reason that this team is the only team in NFL history to be 2-0 after trailing both games by 14+ points in the second half.

4). Practice matters
With today’s CBA, practice times have been slashed.  Coaches have less ability to mold their players the way they want.  But, the Eagles and Genius Kelly have found a way to combat this.  While practice “time” is regulated, there is no restriction, obviously, on practice “reps.”  And, by all accounts, Chip Kelly’s practices are the most efficient practices this sport has ever seen.  Dick Vermeil estimated that Kelly gets 3x as many reps in any given 2-hour practice than Vermeil’s teams ever did.  And, what does this do?  Well, for one, it allows Chip’s teams to get more work on their gameplans than anyone else in the league, but, secondly – and maybe more telling so far – is that it makes the Eagles the most well-conditioned team in the league.  You look around the league in these two weeks, and you will see an avalanche of games that turned drastically in the second halves.  Both Eagles wins, the Bears on Sunday night, the Patriots loss in Week One, the Browns nearly winning two games after bad first halves, etc., etc., etc.  Early in the season, conditioning matters at the end of games, particularly in the heat.  Late in the season, it matters in keeping guys healthy (the Eagles were the healthiest team in the league in Chip’s first year).  This stuff matters – and that is why this coach makes more of a difference on his team than any coach I have ever followed closely.

5). These WRs are not very good
I know we are only two games into his shiny new contract, but Riley Cooper looks like he is straight stealing $25 million out there.  He is not getting open and not making plays.  He looks like the lost, mediocre receiver that he was his entire career other than the second half of 2013.  Why do we think that he “figured something out” again?

Jeremy Maclin looks a little better, but he does not look anything close to a #1 receiver right now – nor does it look like he ever will be, to be honest.  He has good speed, but nothing game-changing, and he has a willingness to go get the tough catch, but I am not sure he has the ability.  I said it all offseason, they should have given Houston a 2nd-rounder for Andre Johnson – and, I really value high draft picks and do not value WRs on the wrong side of 30 – I just think that was the last piece of this offensive puzzle.  But, again, this is the top-scoring team in the NFL, so who’s complaining.

6). That “silent killer” is gone this year
People talk about return and coverage production as “hidden yardage.”  Well, does anyone notice how much better the special teams’ coverage is this year than last?  The front office made significant free agent investments in Bryan Braman and Chris Maragos as well as personnel decisions seemingly driven completely by coverage ability.  And, through two games, it seems to have paid off.  And, by “paid off” I mean that I have not noticed the coverage teams…at all.  Coverage teams are like referees or offensive linemen – typically, the more you notice them, the worse they are.  Just think back to last year and just how hair-pullingly frustrating the coverage teams (and lack of touchbacks, by the way) were.  You don’t have that same feeling this year, do you?  Ya, me neither…and, I like it.

7). How can we go this far without mentioning…?
Darren Sproles and Zach Ertz!  No, seriously, how amazingly do these two fit into this offense?  The personnel matchups are so hard to defend.  Such versatility combined with brilliant play design means that, short of playing nickel or dime packages, it is almost impossible to avoid having LBs covering either Ertz or Sproles or both – and that is the perfect recipe for big play after big play.  And, the more that Ertz and Sproles dominate games this way, the more teams will have to go into sub-packages meaning LeSean McCoy may be running into nickel and dime packages…yes, please.  This offesnse is just going to get harder and harder to defend as it goes.

8). And, the heartbeat of this offense continues
All of these great matchups and brilliant play design is great and all, but this offense (and most offenses) begins and ends up front.  Jason Peters continues to be one of the best tackles of this generation, and certainly the best left tackle in football right now.  Now, I am no expert on O-line play, but I believe you would be hard-pressed to find a center better in the league than Jason Kelce.  And, there are a lot of people who believe that Evan Mathis is the best guard in the league.  That means that when (if) Mathis comes back, 3/5 of this line will be the best in the league at their position.  Throw in the solid veteran of Herremans and an athletic Top-4 pick in Lane Johnson (who will be back Week 5), and you have an ELITE offensive line – probably the best in the game – which is enabling all of that magic to happen around them.  And, I can’t wait for the next act…

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Better Call Stri: The Ray Rice Fiasco Response

Those are really good questions. I agree that we can quickly rule out the theory that Goodell saw the tape and is just bald faced lying about it. If he saw the tape, he isn’t the only one who knows he saw the tape, and if it came out that he was lying about that he could kiss his job goodbye. So, that leads us to your question of why didn’t Goodell see the tape?

It wasn’t that the NFL couldn’t get the tape (it was briefly available online). It wasn’t that Goodell (or anyone else) wanted plausible deniability. Plain and simple, it was arrogance.

The day after the NFL suspended Ray Rice for 2 games, ESPN published an article about the suspension. ELEVEN paragraphs down in the article was this little tidbit: “Rice allegedly struck Palmer unconscious on Feb. 15 while in a casino elevator in Atlantic City. Video surfaced online showing Rice dragging an apparently unconscious Palmer out of the elevator. The couple has since married.”

So, you’re Roger Goodell, master of the universe, commissioner of the NFL, $44 million dollar man, highly experienced in these types of discipline issues, with a bevy of the smartest lawyers, advisors, and PR people at your disposal. You know: (i) Rice struck Palmer, (ii) the blow was allegedly so severe that it struck Palmer unconscious, (iii) he dragged her unconscious body out of the elevator, and (iv) the couple has since married. This has been widely reported by reliable sources. You have interviewed Ray Rice, who has ADMITTED to this exact series of events. Don’t you have enough information at this point to decide what the discipline will be? I mean, we’re not solving the Kennedy assassination here. There aren’t conflicting accounts to sort through. Do you have to actually witness his hand making contact with her head to figure out how many games he gets for knocking his wife unconscious?

Besides, if there were anything on that tape that dramatically changed the analysis, surely it would have come out by now. The alleged incident happened Feb. 15. The discipline happened July 24. It was well know what the admitted to facts were for almost 6 months. The damn video was briefly posted ONLINE. No protests, no boycotts, no letters from the national organization of women, no mass press coverage. Compare that to Michael Vick and Donald Sterling. DAYS after those allegations surfaced, the internet blew up. These were major, major, major stories, almost instantaneously. Roger Goodell is a prudent guy — he waited through six months of near silence (compared to Sterling and Vick anyway) before issuing the discipline…this was yesterday’s news.

The 2 game ban is issued on July 24 and ESPN reports in the story announcing the freaking bad (in paragraph 11) that he knocked his wife unconscious in an elevator. The response? Virtually crickets. No protests, no boycotts, no NOW letters. No cuts by the Ravens. At worst, the reaction was mild condemnation of the penalty as too light. But not even the critics were suggesting an indefinite ban.

Goodell didn’t see the video, because he didn’t need to see the video. He had all the facts he needed to have, and he had waited ample time to gauge public opinion.

So why was the punishment so light? Here is the dirty little secret we just uncovered: Absent a obvious risk to the image (and, thus, bottom line of the league), the powers that be in the NFL think that knocking your fiancé unconscious in an elevator really deserves a two game ban. If Roger Goodell and the rest of the entire world HAD seen the video in February, and there was no public uproar about it by July 23, Ray Rice would have been banned 2 games on July 24. It wasn’t that Goodell got the suspension wrong because he didn’t see the video. He got the suspension wrong because he didn’t anticipate that the video could (or would) change public opinion so completely.

Logically, this all kind of makes sense. I admit to burning down your house in open court. You agree that’s what I did. Does the jury need to see a video of me lighting the match and actually placing it on your house to sentence me? Intellectually, you want to say no. But then you see the video and maybe I’m stumbling around drunk when I do it. Or maybe I’m stone cold sober and laughing like a maniac. Well, now it matters. A lot. Who knew?

Ray Rice got off with a light 2 game ban because that is what Goodell and the rest of the NFL bigwigs thought that his conduct deserved, given all the factors (including public reaction and damage to the NFL’s brand) that existed on July 23. Then, public reaction shifted dramatically, and now they say they “got it wrong” because they “didn’t see the tape.” So they do a 180 and give the customers what they want. Because nobody ever got rich actually telling the American public that they’re wrong. Not seeing a tape is just a fig leaf they’re using. Because “we didn’t give a crap, tape or no tape, until the public freaked” may be true, but it isn’t the PR message you want to be sending out right now.

The stark and sobering reality is that Goodell seeing that tape before issuing the first suspension wouldn’t have made one whit of difference. The only thing that would have changed anything is if the mass public saw — and reacted — before the first suspension came down.

Two other quick points. First, I do think that it mattered greatly that Janay forgave him and married him. To quote Paul George, Goodell was (at least partially) thinking: “I don’t condone hitting women or think it’s cool, but if she ain’t trippin then I ain’t trippin.”

Second, I’ve done my share of internal investigations. They’re not easy. They’re constantly evolving and they never quite end up where you think they will. That’s why these leagues sometimes hire serious people: $2500 lawyers, former U.S. attorneys, former director of the fbi, to conduct the investigations. You’re absolutely right that the cardinal rules are: get out in front of the controversy and get ALL the information. But those two things ALWAYS conflict. Getting out in front requires you to move fast. Getting all the information requires you to move slow, to subpoena video tapes, to fight out those subpoenas in court if need be. Sometimes you can’t do both.

Goodell’s primary sin wasn’t failing to watch the video tape (although that certainly was A sin). His primary sin was thinking that a 2 game ban was appropriate for a player knocking out his fiancé in an elevator. Some of the most damaging scandals occur when you get caught saying something you really believe.

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Better Call Stri: The Ray Rice Fiasco

Have a legal question?  Better call Stri.

And, sports these days are full of legal questions.  It’s a good thing we now have one of the best legal minds on the payroll here at BSB.  So, here’s the first installment of “Better Call Stri,”  where try and get some insight into the legal rationale of some of these crazy off-the-field sports stories that seem to be coming up at a ridiculous rate these days (I “blame” social media and the 24-hour news cycle, but we can blame them for everything, right?)

Anyway, this whole Ray Rice thing has been run into the ground, so I will save any soapboxing or pointless self-aggrandizing comments like “where I come from, we don’t hit our women” or “my parents raised me to treat all people with respect.”  Those serve no purpose in useful conversations other than to waste time with the obvious.

No, what I am fascinated by – and want to get Stri’s legal opinion on – is just how could the most powerful sports league in the nation (if not the world) screw this up so badly?

To me, there are two key aspects of this story – (1) why did Goodell come down on Rice so lightly in the first place, and (2) why is he now claiming not to have seen the tape?

So, counselor, mind if we start with the second one first because this is the part that I honestly cannot even wrap my head around?

First, let us establish some givens before we embark here.  One, let us assume that Roger Goodell – for whatever you think of him – is a highly intelligent man or, at the VERY least is surrounded by highly intelligent people.  Two, let us also assume that his $44 million annual salary does actually ensure that everything he does is keeping the best interests of the league (and by “league,” I simply mean its 32 owners) paramount.  So, why would he say he didn’t see the tape?

Can we first dismiss out of hand that he saw it and is now lying about it?  That would be inanely stupid, and if that is the case, then it is not worth talking about anything else because we are just dealing with flat stupidity.  There is no way he would think he could get away with a bald-faced lie of that caliber.

So, now we are working under the assumption that he actually did not see a tape of which he admits to having knowledge at the time of his ill-fated decision to suspend Rice for 2 games.  Why didn’t he see the tape?  Are we really to believe that he – and all the power/money that his league wields – was simply unable to get his hands on it?  We know that the casino had it.  We know that the police had it.  We know that Rice (or, at least his lawyers) had it.  And, we know that it only took TMZ less than a month to get it.  So, can we really believe that they COULD NOT get it?  At the very least, they could have said to Rice, “you are suspended until you show us the tape and then we will decide on when to reinstate you.”

So, the only next logical step is that they CHOSE not to view the tape.  This is the part that I really need some input here, Stri.  Why would they choose not to see it?  They know it is out there.  They probably know that it is going to come out.  And, they know that their level of punishment will be – fairly or unfairly – judged based almost exclusively on the level of emotional reaction that this tape will stir up in the general public.  So, why not?

The only logical conclusion I can come up with here is plausible deniability.  Am I right here, counselor?  Did Goodell decide that he wanted plausible deniability about the contents of the tape before taking action on the suspension.  And, if so, why?

That “why” is the perfect segue into the first question posed at the beginning here – Why did Goodell come down so lightly on Ray Rice in the first place – tape or no tape?  Why did the guy who has legitimately earned a reputation of unwavering commitment to “law and order,” to the point of nearly alienating his entire labor force, now come down so SOFT on a player?!?  Who is Ray Rice and why is Goodell picking Rice as the one for whom he risks it all?  Why is he so hellbent on giving Rice a punishment that is, AT BEST, on the LIGHTEST possible side of defensible and, at worst, a conscious slap in the face to all those affected and/or appalled by domestic violence in any form?  Why is this so important to him to let Rice off easy that he had to go out of his way to attain plausible deniability of a potential “smoking gun?”

Stri, any ideas?

Did they think that they could get away with letting the facts come out, weighing public opinion, and then thinking they could just alter their course to maintain alignment with public sentiment?  The “new” policy on domestic violence may be evidence of this way of thinking – along with the indefinite suspension of Rice after the tape riled up such an incredible reaction.

Did Goodell, a strong family man, just get swayed by the pleadings of a victim – a wife – to not be punished more by taking away her livelihood?  Did he believe that her husband had never done it before and would certainly never do it again.  Or, did he just find a soft spot for a “first-time offender,” who was, by all accounts, a pillar in the community (which seemed definitely to be true to me, living here during his entire career) and his pleading wife?  Was this punishment just a lenient judgment from a bleeding-hearted family man?  While it sound unlikely that this is the case, I guess it is not out of the realm of possibility that Goodell simply felt bad that this happened, saw it as a heat-of-the-moment mistake by an otherwise good man.  BUT… even if Goodell was swayed by the soon-to-be Mrs. Rice and her “first-time-offender” of a husband, doesn’t he have advisors?  Isn’t he surrounded be a swath of people whose only job is to “protect the shield,” particularly from negative publicity?  Where were they?

Or, maybe we should get all “conspiracy theory” here and say that this all had to do with Jim Irsay.  Maybe Goodell wanted to go light on Irsay, but did not want to risk total mutiny by continuing to levy harsh penalties to players, while not doing the same to those who pay his salary?  So, he let Rice of light, thought it would blow over before he gave Irsay a slightly harsher punishment (though much lighter than he probably deserves), and that’s that.

Or, is it something else that I have not even thought of?

Either way, there is not a reason that I can think of that could possibly explain the fact that this very savvy and experienced public leader broke the ultimate tenets of restoring and retaining public image:  (a) get out in front of a controversy and, going hand-in-hand with that, (b) always make sure that you have ALL the information.  Right?  What am I missing here, esteemed gentleman of the law?

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BSB’s 2014 NFL Preview

For those of you unfamiliar with the preview, instead of the typical, been-done-again-and-again season previews, we like to make a game out of our previews, along with being informative. What we do is kind of a draft process, where we try and decide whether we think a team will get better or worse from last year’s record. Then, at the end of the year, we see who did a better job of predicting. It’s interesting to see just how different the seasons of some teams turn out, in retrospect. Check out our past previews to see what I’m talking about. Doogan took our first one in 2008, 17-15, but Bry responded with a come-from-behind 17-15 win in the 2009 version. In 2010, Doogan won by the familiar 17-15 score and followed that up in 2011, with a dominating 19-13 victory to become the first back-to-back winner of the NFL preview. Having not won since 2009, Bry came back with a vengeance in 2012, winning 21-11.  However, Doogan took the title right back in 2013 with a pretty easy 18-14 win (post reposted just below this one updated with last year’s results).  This is now the seventh NFL preview we’ve done (which is HARD to believe) with Doogan holding a 4-2 all-time lead.  Bry needs this one and, fortunately for him, will get the #1 pick to try and do it.

1). BRY – Houston Texans – OVER 2 wins: It seems general practice in these things that the #1 pick is almost always the Over on one of the worst teams in the NFL the previous year.  I will not buck that trend, as there seems no way that the Texans can’t pick up 3 freaking wins.  I mean they have 5 games on their schedule that are against either the Jags, the Titans, or the Raiders.  Even if they go 2-3 in those 5, they only need to find one more win in the other 11 games.  With the addition of JaDaveon Clowney and the subtraction of Matt Schaub, this team HAS to be better than 2-14.

2). DOOGAN – Washington Redskins – OVER 3 wins: I’ll stay right there with you on a the bottom-feeders.  The defense looks like it will suck again, but there’s definitely reason to think the offense will be improved.  Our old friend D-Jax is a massive upgrade over the receivers they had opposite Pierre Garcon last year.  It’s a nice collection of weapons on offense, and a new coaching regime should be able to improve on what they produced last year.  I know there’s some hand-wringing going on over RGIII but he’ll probably be fine.

3). DOOGAN – Atlanta Falcons- OVER 4 wins: I don’t think I’m as bullish on the Falcons as many (I don’t think they’re a playoff team), but there’s no reason to think they aren’t better than a 4-win team.  They had injuries all over their offense last season, and with Julio Jones and Roddy White healthy, and with some new additions to the O-Line, they should be back to where they were in 2012, which means about 70 more points scored over the course of the season.  But the underrated story was the decline of their defense last year.  They’ve made some veteran additions there, but I’m not sure they’re good enough to turn it around.  They’ll hover around .500.

4). BRY – Carolina Panthers – UNDER 12 wins: Well, you took my next two picks.  Is it a bad sign that I already think this is getting tough?  I’m usually bullish on the Panthers, but not this year.  Their receiving corps is dreadful, unless you think the rookie Kelvin Benjamin can have a big year (and, if you know anything about rookie WRs, you don’t think that).  And, Cam is starting the season banged up.  Throw in the fact that every other team in this division looks markedly improved and you’ve got too much against this team for a really good defense to carry them anywhere near 12 wins again this year.  I think they’ll be lucky to hit 9 or 10, but more likely in the 7 or 8 area.

5).  DOOGAN – Kansas City Chiefs – UNDER 11 wins: There were five that stood out to me as “easy” calls, this being the 5th.  We’ll see how many actually turn out to be that easy.  This is a situation where the Chiefs were obviously not as good as the 11 wins indicates.  Not only did they finish the regular season 2-5 after the 9-0 start, but of all those 11 wins they beat exactly one playoff team (the Eagles way back in Week 3).  They won’t get the favors from the schedule this year, especially matching up with the NFC West.  That’s bad news for the offense, who lost a couple offensive line starters and versatile playmaker Dexter McCluster and replaced them with…basically nothing.  A strong (if maybe overrated) defense and a very pedestrian offense against a tough schedule.  They’ll be under .500.

6). BRY – Green Bay Packers – OVER 8 wins: There are few organizations in sports (and maybe none in the NFL) as well-run as the Green Bay Packers.  They have the history coupled with constant relevance.  They have a rabid fanbase that is pure, loyal, and local.  And, most importantly, they have – in my opinion – the single best football player on the planet.  They missed that player for 9 games last year and still won the division.  I’m not sold on the Lions or Bears and the Vikings are most likely not going to play a role in the division race, so I don’t see much chance that this division is not won by the guys from Green Bay.  Put me down for 10 or 11 wins, a division title, and quite possibly a surprise trip to the Super Bowl.

7). DOOGAN – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – OVER 4 wins: Felt a lot better about this one when I remembered the massive upgrade they made at head coach, going from Greg Schiano to Lovie Smith.  Smith is a proven defensive coach, so I’m not too worried about the loss of Darrelle Revis.  On offense, Josh McCown takes over at QB after playing really well in place of Jay Cutler in Chicago last year.  Granted, McCown won’t have the weapons he had with the Bears, but the cupboard isn’t bare with Vincent Jackson and 1st-Round pick Mike Evans in the receiving corps.  They also made some solid improvements on the O-line with two free agent additions and the big trade yesterday that netted them All-Pro guard Logan Mankins from New England.  They can definitely get to 8 wins.

8). BRY – Cleveland Browns – OVER 4 wins: I think this is the third straight year that I have taken the Browns and the Over.  And, this will probably be the third straight year that I get it wrong.  You know how hard it is to get worse in the NFL 3 straight years?  Well, this year I’m taking them not because of Johnny f’ing Football (that guy sucks), but because I think they might have a Top 5 defense.  Yes, top 5.  They did lose the underrated D’Qwell Jackson, but that might be a bigger deal for the Jackson Greys than the Cleveland Browns.  Joe Haden is an ELITE corner.  Justin Gilbert – their first-round pick – could walk right in and be adequate on the other side.  Barkavious Mingo is in his second year and a possible stud in the making.  And, they added some attitude with Donte Hitner (formerly Whitner, but officially changed his legal name because he “hits” so hard).  And, I think with what they lack in offensive weapons, they can negate some of that with their elite offensive line, including Joe Thomas – maybe the best O-lineman in football.  I’ll be realistic and only ask for 6 wins, but that’s more than 4.

9). DOOGAN – San Francisco 49ers – UNDER 12 wins: Not my usual move to go Under this early on a really good team, but I see red flags all over the place with this team.  First, the more concrete problems.  Three of their four starters in the secondary have left in free agency and the replacements are a mix of unproven and past their prime (Antoine Bethea).  At linebacker, Aldon Smith is a disaster off the field and we’ll see if he even plays the 11 games he did last year.  All-Pro freak Navorro Bowman (PSU alum, I must add) is out for at least half the year and will not be 100% when he does come back after blowing out his knee.  So, all of a sudden, this great defense has some real concerns.  I don’t like the Kaepernick off-the-field distractions.  Not good from your quarterback.  And, finally, there’s been so many rumors about Harbaugh wanting out and trying to get to a new team.  Who knows, but where there’s smoke there’s fire and it’s a distraction and also maybe says something about how Harbaugh views this team moving forward.  OK, that’s my long-winded way of saying the Niners are dropping from 12 wins to 10 this year.

10). BRY – Cincinnati Bengals – UNDER 11 wins: Doogan, I think you’ve literally taken my next pick every single time.  But, anyway, let’s continue my recent trend of duplicating wrong picks I made last year.  I took the Bengals Under-10 last year, and they won 11.  So, I’m doubling-down here this year.  They might still win this division (though, I would definitely take the field), but I think that Mike Zimmer made more of a difference than people may realize on the defensive side.  I think that they take a slight step back defensively and nothing forward offensively.  Plus, 11 is a pretty big number in a relatively tough division.  10, tops, for this Bengals team.

11). DOOGAN – Denver Broncos – UNDER 13 wins: I don’t feel great about this at all, and they burned me last year, but I’ll go for it again.  Peyton threw a ridiculous 55 touchdowns last year.  Can the offense keep up that sort of production?  Every historical precedent says no.  Peyton’s a year older, Eric Decker is gone, Welker already has another concussion this year, there are legit questions with the running backs.  I know, Manning is not like other mere mortals and even at 38 he can probably take guys like Emmanuel Sanders and Monte Ball and make them stars.  But the schedule will get tougher this year as they matchup with the NFC West.  Logic says they’ll step back to 11-5.

12). BRY – Arizona Cardinals – UNDER 10 wins: I really don’t know what to think about the Cardinals.  Their defense seems terrific, but they lost Daryl Washington for the season due to a drug suspension, and I think they may have overachieved a little bit last year.  But, even if they’re the ’85 Bears or ’91 Eagles, they play in the best division in football with Carson Palmer at QB.  10 seems like an awfully big number to me.

13). DOOGAN – Detroit Lions – OVER 7 wins: They have a basically league-average defense in Detroit with just about all the same guys back from last year.  A great front led by Suh and Ziggy Ansah, with some shaky secondary play.  On offense, you think of them as really good but they somehow ranked just 13th in the league in points last year.  Put those things together and 7 wins makes sense.  I’ll bet on the offense improving.  I’m not totally sold on Stafford and maybe he’s the problem, but they have the best receiver in the league, two nice running backs, and they’ve added solid Golden Tate opposite Megatron and 10th overall pick Eric Ebron at tight end.  They look more like a 9-10 win team.

14). BRY – Seattle Seahawks – UNDER 13 wins: The defending Super Bowl champs look fantastic in the preseason and are the odds-on favorites to win again this year.  And, I think that if you gave me the same odds on every team to win the Super Bowl, I would probably take Seattle.  But, winning the Super Bowl and winning 13 regular season games are two very different things.  13 is just a huge number.  And, the past decade or so hasn’t been too kind to teams coming off Super Bowl appearances.  I think they still win the NFC West rather handily and probably even homefield advantage.  But, I think there’s a better chance of 12-4 or worse than another 13-3 season.

15). DOOGAN – Indianapolis Colts – UNDER 11 wins: The Colts have two big things going for them:  Andrew Luck and playing in a really weak division.  But what else do they really have?  They made no significant improvements to their roster in the offseason, apparently operating under the assumption that their young core will just get better and they already won 11 games, so why worry?  That’s just not really how it works in the NFL.  Especially when you have Reggie Wayne trying to come back from a blown knee at age 35 and Robert Mathis coming off a monster season, but one in which he was suspended late for performance-enhancing drugs.  Throw in the fact that Houston figures to be much better as a divisonal foe, and it’s easy to see these guys dropping to 9-7.

16). BRY – Minnesota Vikings – OVER 5 wins: I don’t think the Vikes are all that good, and I don’t think they’re a playoff team.  But, I do think that they have a relatively workable schedule, one of the best players of our generation, and a pretty low bar of 5 wins.  Plus, we don’t know how much this new outdoors Minneapolis homefield is going to treat them in November and December.  The Vikes won’t be all that relevant, but I think 5 wins is probably the low-end of their possibilities.  Put me down for a 6-10 or 7-9 Vikings team.

17). DOOGAN – New York Jets – UNDER 8 wins: There’s some talk around the Jets this season that goes something like:  Hey, Geno Smith looked good in the preseason.  And he has Chris Johnson and Eric Decker as new weapons to use.  And the defense is always good.  So…they should be pretty good, right?  Admittedly, not a ton of people are buying into that talk, and I’m not one of them.  I’ll believe it when I see it with this offense, and the defense was actually NOT all that good last year (19th in points allowed), and they’ve made no improvements to that side of the ball.  I’ve never been a big Rex Ryan believer, and I think this is his final go-round at the Meadowlands.

18). BRY – Pittsburgh Steelers – OVER 8 wins: If you’ve focused predominantly on the Eagles this preseason, then (a) I don’t blame you, they look great and (b) you might have a warped sense of who the Steelers are this year.  They looked really bad in the all-important 3rd preseason game against the Eagles.  So bad, in fact, that they kept their first teams out there well into the second half against all the Eagles #2s – and still couldn’t get anything done.  But, I think that that game was an anomaly, and I actually might declare the Steelers as my pick to win what should be a pretty intense 3-team race in the AFC North.  I think Roethlisberger is an underappreciated star (and world-class human being, obviously), and the team looked really good down the stretch last year.  They lost Emmanuel Sanders to Denver, but he wasn’t that important.  And, the under-the-radar aspect of their 8-8 2013 season is that they had NO running game.  But, this year Laveon Bell could make the leap, and they added a nice complement in LaGarrette Blount (all blunt jokes aside).  And, maybe the biggest upgrade should be on a defense that started to look old last year, but added some key pieces, including first-round pick, Ryan Shazier, who, by all accounts looks like a star from the jump.  And, they have the best d-coordinator to ever live still running that side of the ball.  I think they win the division, which means at least 9 wins.

19).  DOOGAN – Dallas Cowboys – UNDER 8 wins: Can Dallas go 8-8 for the fourth straight year?  Fortunately, I don’t think so.  I can’t deny that they have a decent enough offense, even if Romo is the biggest choke artist in sports at the moment.  But this defense might be worst in football, and that’s just not gonna get you a winning record.  I used to really hate Jerry Jones, but I’ve come around on him.  In fact, I hope he keeps owning (and making football decisions for) the Cowboys for a long, long time.

20). BRY – Jacksonville Jaguars – OVER 4 wins: This is not a good team…at all.  But, 5 wins are not that many in a league of parity.  And, they looked pretty solid at the end of the year last season – when they actually had legitimate NFL quarterback play.  This year they will start with the serviceable Chad Henne and probably enter the incredibly promising rookie, Blake Bortles (who has been excellent in the preseason).  I also think that – gasp – Toby Gerhart might actually be an upgrade to the aging MJD.  The defense is still a work in progress, but coming along – particularly on the defensive line, where they have a stable of excellent “big uglies” to rotate in.  Put me down for 6 wins down in Jacksonville this year.  Fortunately, one of them will NOT be Week One.

21).  DOOGAN – New England Patriots – UNDER 12 wins: Damn you, Bry.  I really tried not to end up betting against the Pats.  I looked hard at every other team still on the board here, but I just couldn’t leave this big number out there anymore.  You waited me out on this one.  It’s Belichick.  It’s Brady.  There’s no reason to think they can’t win 12 games.  But most of the numbers left on the board are just so hard to call one way or the other.

22). BRY – St. Louis Rams – UNDER 7 wins: Yep, I waited just long enough (I had them next up, too).  Instead, I’ll bet on double-digit losses from the worst team in a division before they lost their starting QB for the season.  Granted, Sam Bradford isn’t exactly an extreme difference-maker, but he is better than Shaun Hill, and the margin for error for this Rams team isn’t much in this division.  Their defense is terrific, but I still see 6-10 for this team.

23).  DOOGAN – Baltimore Ravens – OVER 8 wins: This division is very hard to predict, and it won’t be at all surprising if only one team ends up above .500.  If we’re just looking at franchise pedigree, it’s fair to bet against the Bengals being that team for the second straight year.  That leaves us with the Ravens and Steelers.  Bry has already hitched his wagon in this division with the Steel.  I’ll go with the Ravens to recover (somewhat) from their Super Bowl hangover of a year ago and scrap their way back atop the AFC North.

24). BRY – Chicago Bears – OVER 8 wins: I already have the Overs on the Packers and Vikings, and Doogan has the Over on the Lions, so I guess it’s fair to say that we think the NFC North will be vastly improved.  I do not like this defense all that much, as the worst defense in Bears history lost Julius Peppers.  But, the offense could be sensational.  The weapons around a healthy Jay Cutler are tremendous with top-5 RB Matt Forte and two elite wideouts in Marshall and Jeffrey.  Throw in a solid (but lazy) TE in Martellus Bennett and a lottery card in Santonio Holmes, and I think this offense could be one of the best in football.  Does that mean a division title or a dozen wins?  Probably not.  But, I could see 9+ as more likely than .500 or below.

25). DOOGAN – Miami Dolphins – OVER 8 wins: Part of my plan for this pick (and my Pats Under pick) is to have the Dolphins knock off the Pats at home this Sunday.  There’s obviously an opening for somebody to be the second-best team in this division, and while there’s obviously no guarantee that that second place team will have a winning record, I’ll say Miami pulls it off.  A pretty decent defense combined with a young quarterback who now has two full years of starting experience, minus the circus sideshow of whatever happened with that Martin/Incognito thing last year.  A lot of easy wins on the slate (Bills and Jets twice, Raiders, Jags, Vikings).  9-7 season for the Fins.

26). BRY – Oakland Raiders – OVER 4 wins: This is probably the worst team in football, and they were not made any better in the short-term when they named rookie 2nd-round pick Derrick Carr as the starter Week One against the Jets.  They are an old, cap-strapped team that doesn’t have any talent or any real hope for the future.  BUT…the NFL is a league with a very strong pull towards mediocrity, so I will just pray that this team somehow scrapes out 5 wins in the process of being the worst team – on paper – in the league.

27). DOOGAN – Philadelphia Eagles – UNDER 10 wins: We’ve reached the point where if you asked me to throw out my best guess for how many games any of the teams left will win, I’m pretty sure I would say the exact number that they won last year.  I wouldn’t say I’m “down” on the Birds (like I was last year), because I think they’ll win 10 games and the division and be a tough out in January.  BUT, I look at this schedule, and I just think 9 wins is more likely than 11.  You can talk about the division being easy, but NFC East games are usually pretty tough, and there may be no total pushovers in the bunch.  Throw in four games against the NFC West and road games at Green Bay and Indy, and you can find a lot of losses out there if you’re looking for them.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the defense makes a big improvement, but I don’t have a ton of reason to think that’s coming.

28). San Diego Chargers – OVER 9 wins: I got talked into this one by Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders.  Apparently, the arrows are all pointing in the right direction for the Chargers and he said “It wouldn’t shock me if they were 13-3.”  Huh?!?!?!?  But, I will take his word for it because I agree with Doogan in that every pick left of the board looks like it will hit the number.  But, the Chiefs are falling back and the Raiders stink, so the Chargers are clearly the 2nd-best team in the division.  Yes, they get the NFC West, but this is a relatively young team with a potential star coach in Mike McCoy (who should have been coach of the year last year, in my opinion), so I guess I’ll take the Chargers for double-digit wins…cringe.  PS…Doogan, I would have gone OVER on the Birds, so thanks for keeping the site relatively objective.

29). DOOGAN – New Orleans Saints – UNDER 11 wins: Starting in ’09 and skipping the season where Sean Payton was suspended and everything went crazy for them, the Saints win totals have gone 13, 11, 13, 11.  So, does that mean they’re headed for 13 wins this year?  Very possibly!  Are those numbers a good reason to go Under here on 11?  No!  But whatever, when you think the number is right it makes sense to go below on a big number.  Can the Saints defense match the solid year they had last year?  Maybe, but they were the worst defense in the league two years ago, so we’ll see.

30). BRY – Tennessee Titans – OVER 7 wins: We’re just throwing darts here, right?  I like Jake Locker (and, I might be the only one…), and I think the AFC South is the worst division in football.  4 games with Jacksonville and Houston will help, and I don’t think Indy is unbeatable.  Plus, they get to play the second-worst division in the league, the NFC East, as well.  I think 8 wins is more likely than 6 wins, so I’ll take the Over on 7.

31). DOOGAN – New York Giants – UNDER 7 wins: I actually feel pretty good about my last pick here, and not just because of Under on the G-Men.  It would be hard to argue that this team is really any good, so Under on a mid-range number seems pretty clear.  The O-Line was a disaster last year and they’ve brought in new people, but that doesn’t mean it’s fixed.  They have nobody at running back and a rookie starting at wide-out opposite Victor Cruz.  I don’t see a mid-30′s Eli being able to do much with this group around him.  They lost Linval Joseph and a still-decent Justin Tuck from a defense that was already pretty poor.  Probably the farewell tour for Tom Coughlin at the Meadowlands.

32). BRY – Buffalo Bills – UNDER 6 wins: Yeah, I have been weighing the Giants Under for about 10 picks now, but just couldn’t do it because I feel like I make that pick every year, and every year I look like a Giants hater (which is totally true).  But, as I am stuck here with the last pick, I would love to call a push here, as 6-10 sounds exactly right.  But, honestly, for a 32nd pick, this isn’t terrible because there is no way this team wins 7+, so I just have to dodge 6-10 to get a point here, which is probably a coin flip.  E.J. Manual stinks – as evidenced by their signing of Kyle Orton out of retirement.  But, the defense is probably good enough to make me sweat this out.

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BSB’s 2013 NFL Preview

For those of you unfamiliar with the preview, instead of the typical, been-done-again-and-again season previews, we like to make a game out of our previews, along with being informative. What we do is kind of a draft process, where we try and decide whether we think a team will get better or worse from last year’s record. Then, at the end of the year, we see who did a better job of predicting. It’s interesting to see just how different the seasons of some teams turn out, in retrospect. Check out our past previews to see what I’m talking about. Doogan took our first one in 2008, 17-15, but Bry responded with a come-from-behind 17-15 win in the 2009 version. In 2010, Doogan won by the familiar 17-15 score and followed that up in 2012, with a dominating 19-13 victory to become the first back-to-back winner of the NFL preview. Having not won since 2009, Bry came back with a vengeance, taking last year’s contest, 21-11. Doogan will try to rebound here in 2013, as he gets the first pick this year.

1) DOOGAN – Kansas City Chiefs – OVER 2 wins: Big Red lives! Everyone’s acting like Alex Smith is a Hall of Fame quarterback just because he’s replacing guys that were a disaster. I’m not sure he’ll be all that good but, despite what we saw in Philly a year ago, Andy knows how to coach an offense. And the defense is fairly loaded, led by one of my favorite non-Eagles in the league, Tamba Hali. Some are saying they could go from the bottom of the league to a playoff berth. Let’s just call it 6-10, though.

FINAL RECORD: 11-5
DOOGAN 1 – BRY 0
Doogan takes an easy point here, as the Coach Reid coaches ‘em up to 11 wins and a playoff berth.  Doogan even undershot this first pick.

2). BRY – Philadelphia Eagles – OVER 4 wins: It is not interesting to most that I would take the home team here because I always seem overly bullish on the Eagles. But, it is interesting to me because I seem like a bit of a wet blanket when talking about the Birds this year. I think they are still a ways away from serious contention (though, this division is just bad enough to change our definition of “contention”). That being said, I think that this team had WAY more than 4-win talent last year, and I think they have WAY more than 4-win talent this year. They may even have a playoff-caliber offense. The defense is quite suspect, but the schedule is really soft. Put me down for 6 or 7 wins for the Birds with the needle firmly pointed upwards.

FINAL RECORD: 10-6
BRY 1 – DOOGAN 1
Bry also picks up an easy point with his first pick – undershooting this one, as well.  The one and only Coach Kelly turned a 4-win team into a division champ.  Fly, Eagles, Fly!

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The Prodigal Turncoat Returns!

Four years ago, Lebron James went on TV and in the most ridiculous spectacle in recent memory announced that he was “taking his talents to South Beach.” Immediately, every teenage boy in America had a new euphemism for taking a dump. This was fitting given Lebron’s “Decision” was to leave the Cavs, his hometown team that had drafted him with the first pick, to join what was then Wade’s team in Miami along with Bosh.

I killed Lebron for that decision. As did pretty much the entire sports world outside of the state of Florida. We had the best player in the world abandoning his team for “help” chasing rings somewhere else. This wasn’t a washed up Malone and Payton going to the Lakers for one last gasp. Or Shaq being pushed out of LA because of Kobe and then going on to win a ring in Miami. This was “The King”, in his prime, voluntarily choosing to play in someone else’s court.

My absolute favorite description of the Decision actually came from someone defending Lebron:

“James loves to have fun. He’s not a killer, like Michael Jordan. He’s not a harping-on-the-court-coach, pain-in-the-rear like Kobe. He doesn’t need to win like he needs his next breath, like Lance Armstrong. He is goofy and funny and whimsical. The fake camera shots, the dancing, the chalk. He was like that in high school and he’s still like that. So why should anybody be surprised when he wants to play with his friends in a city that’s 97 percent fun? The Miami Heat are the perfect fit for James. It’s Dwyane Wade’s team. Wade can be the killer, like he was while winning a ring in 2006. James will just dunk, swat layups and do his Kid n’ Play impressions. You could see it in how much he loved the over-the-top bacchanalia the Heat put on for the Three Rise Men — fireworks, fog, voguing down the catwalk. You may want him to be something else, but he’s not. What are you going to do, sue?”

“You may want him to be something else, but he’s not.” Still true.

********

After Lebron went to Miami, the rest became history. In four years, the three amigos have been to four finals, winning two of them. But what have we really learned over that period? That he can get a team through the atrocious east and then win a 7 game series playing with Wade and Bosh? Not to put too fine a point on it, but so what? I bet a starting five of Wade, Durant, Lebron, Bosh, and Duncan would win it all too. Color me unimpressed.

But then, after winning two championships, a funny thing happened on the way to that three-peat. The Heat got their collective asses kicked by a better basketball “team.” The less athletic Spurs, largely using ball movement and fundamental basketball, dismantled the best player in the world and his little boy band of south beach collusiveness. It was eerily similar to all of those times that Kobe and Jordan had their teams get spanked in 5 (with FOUR double digit losses) in a finals series when they were playing with two other all stars they had hand picked. Wait a minute, I’m getting word that never happened.

So, The King’s hand picked team just got hammered for the first time since they joined up together. How will he respond? Like the great ones do. By working even harder with his teammates and coaching staff so it will never happen again and going into F.U. mode in four straight playoff series next year. Right? Hello? Wait a minute, I’m getting word that’s not how he’ll respond at all.

How will Lebron respond to his first bit of adversity since leaving the Cavs? ABANDON SHIP!!! ABANDON SHIP!!! Attention, Attention: Lebroney needs more help! Get Lebroney more help!! Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s hope the press spins this into a great “story” about Lebron coming “home” to “atone” for the way he left.

Horse manure.

Lebron is going back to Cleveland because playing on a team with Kyrie, Wiggins, and potentially Kevin Love, on a team with future cap space (with wiggins on a rookie deal and kyrie on a lower “max”) and draft picks they can use as currency (the heat traded all their picks to cle in the sign and trade to get LeBron) gives Lebron a better chance to win championships over the next four years than staying in Miami with a capped out team, no picks, and a breaking down Wade. He’s like Malone and Peyton in their final years, every year.

What’s the matter Lebron, couldn’t you have signed a 1 year deal with the Spurs? Or would that have been too transparent? How about this: maybe instead of choosing your team now, just hang out until you see which teams make the finals, and then sign a ten day contract with whoever you think has a better chance to win. If you’re going to be this guy, then at least be up front about it and go the full 9.

Or, just continue to be such a front runner, that you’ll go back to playing for a guy who publicly called you a “coward” in a city that BURNED YOUR JERSEY IN EFFIGY. I think that if the Columbus KKK’s had an all star team and a max contract slot, we’d see Lebron wearing all white next year.

Oh, and to the fans who burned Lebron’s Jersey four years ago and are now buying season tickets to cheer for him? You’re a bunch of hypocrites.

********

One guy I don’t feel at all bad for in this is D. Wade. Four years ago, you must have been thinking what a coup it was that you could get the best player in the world to leave his HOME team and play for yours. And you got two more rings out of it, so congrats. But don’t act all wounded when he leaves the second you guys start to have problems for greener pastures. The cowardly turncoat giveth, and the cowardly turncoat taketh away.

I may want him to be something else, but he’s not.

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World Cup Quarterfinals Predictions

France vs. Germany

A classic clash of European powers, but they come in to this one from opposite positions.  Germany was seen as one of the big favorites coming in, but since that opening demolition of Portugal, they’ve failed to impress much.  Meanwhile, France came in with fairly low expectations, especially when Franck Ribery went down with an injury, but they’ve arguably been the best team in the tournament to this point.  This is a tricky pick for me, as the Germans were my pick to win it all and the French were my “sleeper” pick.  I have to stick with the quality of the Germans.  I wonder if they will put Miroslav Klose or Andre Schurrle into the starting line-up, because they’ve really struggled to find goals over their past two games.  I’ll go with Germany 2-1.

Brazil vs. Colombia

Somewhat similar to Germany/France, with a big favorite who has underwhelmed against a team that has rolled through with four relatively easy wins to this point.  But, this time, I’m going with the upset.  Part of the reason I didn’t pick Brazil to win this tournament was because I felt like the pressure would just weigh them down and balance out any positive push they get from the home-field advantage.  I think we’ve seen that bear out in their performance, as well as the way that numerous players broke down in tears after their WIN over Chile.  I think they’re just wound up too tight, and with each successive step in this tournament it gets squeezed tighter.  Meanwhile, the Colombians have played with such confidence and ease.  They won’t have the home crowd in this one that they’ve had in the previous four games, but they’ve shown the talent to take down this Brazil team, and even to win this tournament.  Colombia knocks out the hosts with a 3-2 win.

Argentina vs. Belgium

As great as the two games on Friday are, this one is probably the most interesting for me.  I see it as virtually a coin flip game on a neutral field, but this isn’t a totally neutral field, of course.  Argentina is playing on their home continent and will certainly have the advantage in crowd support.  All that being said, I’m going with my Belgians in the upset.  Belgium has found yet another young talent in 19-year-old striker Divock Origi.  The big clubs of Europe will be falling all over each other trying to sign him away from Lille after this tournament.  And now Romelu Lukaku may have his confidence back after a great performance as a sub against the US.  It seems like they may have settled on the attacking midfield of Hazard, De Bruyne, and Mertens, with Witsel and Fellaini behind them.  It’s a monster front six, with a top notch goalkeeper that can hide some of the deficiencies in the back four.  I’ll say the Belgians find the goal in extra time for a 2-1 win.

Netherlands vs. Costa Rica

I haven’t, at any point, been a big believer in this Netherlands team, and it looked like they might be heading home as they trailed Mexico in the 88th minute last game.  But now they get, by far, the weakest quarterfinal opponent out there.  Costa Rica has shown themselves to be legit and they are hard to score on, with a strong defensive style and a really good keeper in Keylor Navas.  But I have to go with the Dutch to find a way and win this 1-0.

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Knockout Stage Round One – Predictions

The Group Stage is over.  My “Drinking from the World Cup” is over.  But the games go on.  Here’s my prediction for Saturday’s double-header.

Brazil vs. Chile

This may end up being a popular upset pick, after Chile looked really good in their first two games and Brazil was largely unimpressive (sorry, a rout of Cameroon doesn’t do much).  I was already down on Brazil coming into the tournament, and they definitely have done much to change my mind on that.  All that being said, I’ll go with the Brazilians here.  I see it locked up at 1-1 when the 90 minutes expires before Neymar pops one in extra time to win it 2-1 for Brazil.

Colombia vs. Uruguay

Could the Uruguayans find a way here, without Suarez?  Of course.  But the popular pick here will definitely be Colombia because they rolled through the Group Stage with three wins and now get a Uruguay team in some turmoil after all the Suarez controversy over the last few days.  I’ll stick with Colombia anyway.  They look like a team on a mission with some guys that are emerging as stars in James (that’s pronounced Ha-mez) Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado, and Victor Ibarbo.  These guys have let the team forget about the loss of their star striker to injury.  I’ll take Colombia 3-1.

Netherlands vs. Mexico

Well, my predictions for yesterday were pretty good (Brazil/Chile going 1-1 into extra time with a Brazil win and Colombia with a 2-goal win) so I’m feeling some added pressure as we head into Day 2 of the Knockout Stage.  This is absolutely one of the best games of this round.  The Netherlands have been the most impressive team in the tournament so far and are a better team than Mexico.  That being said, I’m going with the Mexicans in an upset here.  We know the Dutch, back at full strength with Van Persie and Robben up top, will be looking to go on the attack.  The Mexican fullbacks, Layun and Aguilar, have been up attacking a lot in this tournament, but they’ll have to hang back to help deal with the Dutch attack.  But I think Mexico has shown the defensive discipline to (mostly) withstand the attack and hit on some counter-attacks.  I’ll say Chicharito comes on as a sub and scores the winner in a 2-1 Mexican victory.

Costa Rica vs. Greece

Probably the least interesting game of this round, as it pits two teams that weren’t expected to be here and, more concerning, two teams that play a defensive style.  I’ll keep it simple for this prediction.  Greece has done nothing to really impress so far, while the Costa Ricans won the “Group of Champions” (though with Uruguay being dominated yesterday, you can really question how tough that group was in the first place).  I like Costa Rica 1-0, on a goal from Joel Campbell, who’s made himself money playing somewhere after this tournament.

France vs Nigeria

Similar to the Costa Rica/Greece match from yesterday in that it pits a team that’s been very impressive so far in the tournament (France) against one that has not been very impressive but managed to sneak through a mediocre group (Nigeria).  The big difference, of course, is that France has the pedigree of world class talent that Costa Rica does not possess.  Nigeria should not be counted out easily here.  They have good talent and their ace in the hole may be goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who is not only very good but also plays in the French Ligue 1, so he is very familiar with the tendencies of his opponents in this match.  Still, I’ve like this France team all along, and I think they keep the momentum going here, with a 2-1 win.

Germany vs. Algeria

It’s shaping up to be the end of the tournament for Africa today, as the two remaining sides go up against big European powers.  This should be a good measuring stick game for the Germans.  Algeria has shown themselves to be a solid but nothing-special team.  Look for them to “park the bus” and pack in their defense here, much as they did in the early going against Belgium.  It may frustrate the Germans for a while, but they should have the quality to penetrate the blockade and win this 2-0.  Algerians Sofiane Feghouli and Islam Slimani have shown themselves to be dangerouns though.

Argentina vs. Switzerland

Sergio Aguero is out with an injury, but if there’s any team that can pretty easily withstand the loss of a world-class striker, it’s Argentina.  Switzerland has looked good in attack, with Xherdan Shaqiri pulling the strings, and both fullbacks, Rodriguez and Lichtsteiner, making solid contributions to the offense.  But that five-goal meltdown vs. the French may be telling.  Do they have the defense and goalkeeping to keep this Argentina squad down?  I’ll say no, and say that the Argies take this one, 2-1.

USA vs. Belgium

Ah, the two teams I’m rooting for most meet up here in the Round of 16.  Unfortunate.  Assuming Argentina wins in the earlier game today, the favorites will be 7-0 in this round.  Yes, that means I’m going with the Americans as the lone upset.  As I’ve said already, I think the Belgians have been overly criticized so far for the performance in this tournament.  Yes, they’ve faced three less-than-great opponents, but all of those opponents were hanging back and making it very hard for Belgium to find any space.  The US should mirror that tactic, because if they play an open, attacking style, attempting to control the ball equally, the class of the Belgians will shine.  The US needs to hang back and hope to hit on some counter-attacks.  But they’ve been able to take good advantage of their opportunities, and Jozy Altidore may be around to help out today.  I’ll say the US wins this 1-0.

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2014 World Cup: Knockout Stage – Top Half (6/28)

Well, we have gotten through the group stage and the field is cut in half.  We have gotten rid of most of the rifraf, and we are ready for some futbol.  The stakes are raised exponentially, as it has become a one-and-done tournament.  Throw out a clunker, and you will have 4 years to think about it.  Let’s go!

This post will be updated through the Quarterfinals for the top half of the bracket.

6/28, noon – Brazil vs. Chile – Round of 16
Well, the Chileans got through a really tough Group B and what is their reward?  Not only do they draw their arch-nemeses and the side that has eliminated them multiple times in World Cup play, including 2010 in the Round of 16, but now they have to play them on their home soil, where they just about never lose.  A tall task for any nation, particularly one that is not a traditional soccer superpower.  However, if there ever was a Chilean team that could do it, it would be this one.  They have probably looked the better side in this Cup (I think that if the two sides switches groups, Chile would have won Group A and Brazil would have finished 2nd in Group B – at least how they each have played).  Their attacking style can throw off a Brazilian backline that is actually pretty shaky other than Thiago Silva.  And, the Brazilian midfield seems to lack the typical Brazilian magic.  They do have the red-hot goalscorer, Neymar, and a ridiculous homefield advantage (something that Chile has enjoyed all tournament, but will not in this one).  I will be rooting for Chile and think that they have a legit shot here, but it would be disingenuous to think that Brazil wouldn’t clearly be favored to win this one.  Either way, it should be a GREAT start to the knockout round.

6/28, 4:00 – Colombia vs. Uruguay – Round of 16
And, the South American Invitational continues on Saturday, as all four sides playing on the first day of the knockout round are from the host continent.  These four outstanding soccer nations will battle for one spot in the semis.  The nightcap pits a red-hot Colombia side that looks like a legit sleeper to make noise here in the knockout stage against a Uruguay side that will be without their enigmatic biter, Luis Suarez.  While Uruguay may have the more accomplished history and another top ten team currently, the Colombians would probably be the favorites here even if Suarez were playing.  And, without him, the Uruguayans are decided underdogs here.  That being said, they still have a lot of quality and are capable of beating anyone (as evidenced by their successive must-win victories over England and Italy in the group stage).  I like Colombia here, but should be another great match on a fantastic day to get us going in the all-important knockout stage.

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BSB’s Sixers Draft Guide

The Sixers have like 8,752 picks in tonight’s NBA draft, but only two of them are in the first round.  And, since the lottery is the only thing that anyone in the mass media seems to care about, I thought it might be a good idea to

Chad Ford may be the guru of all things NBA draft, but what the hell does he know?  Okay, a lot.  But, there are few “normal” people in this world that watch as much college hoops as your resident BSB’ers, so I thought it made sense to throw together some thoughts about these guys strictly from a “how were they in college?” perspective.  This won’t be a mock draft because I won’t pretend to know the thoughts or needs of each NBA roster, as they currently stand, it will be more of an assessment on how I see this guy’s skills and college performance translates to the next level.  Oh, and if you doubt my credibility about this, just know that I am the guy that predicted Lou Roe would be a better pro than Marcus Camby.  I would like to think I have evolved since then (I was 11 years old), but I guess that remains to be seen…

Think of this as kind of a quick cheat sheet on each guy, as I see it.

SUPERSTARS

Andrew Wiggins
A ridiculous athlete that is getting unneccesarily ripped for his “motor.”  Don’t get me wrong, I think motor (or whatever cliche you want to use for how consistently hard a guy plays) is INCREDIBLY important and almost always undervalued.  I just think that we incorrectly associate “quiet” with lacking motor.  That is NOT the case, and Wiggins has it.  The dude scored 41 points in a game.  Grabbed 18 rebounds in another.  And, blocked 6 shots in yet another one.  And, he’s a freaking wing player who is better on the defensive end than the offensive one.  I think that he will either be the best or second-best player in this draft, depending solely on the health of Joel Embiid.

Jabari Parker
I love Parker’s offensive game.  He will easily be the best offensive player from this draft.  If you told me that he would average 20 ppg for his career, including a stretch of seasons at 25+, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least.  And, by all accounts,  he’s a great guy.  But, I watched him all year at Duke, and, honestly, the dude is going to get abused on the defensive end at the next level.  Can he get better?  Sure.  Will he ever be a serviceable NBA defender?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  What he will give you, though, is points, points, and more points.  Which are always nice.

POTENTIAL STARS WITH QUESTION MARKS

Joel Embiid
If you told me that everyone in this draft was going to be healthy for their entire careers, then Joel Embiid would be as much a no-brainer #1 as we have seen since Lebron.  When healthy at Kansas, the dude was ridiculous – and, not just athletically, but skillfully, as well.  And, this is a guy who hadn’t picked up a basketball until about three years ago.  If his body holds up, he’s got what it takes to be legendary.  But, wow, is that a big “if.”  Honestly, if I’m the Sixers at #3, I roll the dice.

Dante Exum
Who knows?  By all accounts, he’s an incredibly smart, heady player who is mature beyond his 18 years, but the question marks are there, particularly the lack of competition.  But, he is 6’6″ and the son of an NBA player, so it’s hard not to fall in love with him.  Plus, people do discount how good that AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) is.  They are REALLY serious about their sports Down Under and that academy is ridiculous.

Aaron Gordon
I LOVE Aaron Gordon.  Part of me wishes the Sixers had the 5th or 6th pick instead of the 3rd because then they could stop this infatuation with Wiggins or temptation of Embiid and just snatch up Aaron Gordon and be happy.  He will never be a big time scorer (don’t get swayed by the “Shawn Marion learned to score” because there is and always will be only one Shawn Marion), but the dude gets after it.  He can defend and rebound on an elite level right now, and he’s only 19.  Throw in the fact that he’s a total gym rat, and I think he will continue to develop into a ridiculously valuable NBA asset.  I can’t imagine him falling past Brad Stevens at #6, but if he does get to the Sixers at #10, it will be a GREAT draft.

Julius Randle
I also LOVE Julius Randle.  Another guy who probably won’t be there at #10, but if he is – GO GET HIM.  I heard someone say that guys who have NBA physicality and play hard are never busts.  And, this guy has it.  He is a grown man with who plays with his hair on fire.  And, I don’t think we have seen his array of skills because Kentucky needed him under the basket, so he never got to show us his perimeter game, which, apparently, is rather refined.  You could see his handle, though, and that was awesome.  God, I love this guy.  I don’t know if I would even have a problem taking him at #3.  He’s awesome.

Noah Vonleh
This stock has risen considerably since the college season ended and, frankly, I am not sure why.  But, then again, the easiest way to tell an NBA fan from a college fan right now is to ask them the following question:  “Randle or Vonleh.”  Anyone with any fandom of the college game will quickly tell you that Randle is a beast and Vonleh is unimpressive.  NBA fans or draftniks will be slower to answer and probably will say Vonleh because of his “skill set.”  Well, all I can go on is what I saw at Indiana, and that was remarkably UNremarkable.  I think the Sixers would be ecstatic to get him at #10 (of which, there is NO chance, from what I hear), but I really hope they don’t take him at #3.

Marcus Smart
I should let Doogan write this one, as he is as big a Marcus Smart fan as I know.  And, for good reason.  The issue with him is a slew of non-issues.  All of the things you hear (particularly the Texas Tech incident) are certainly blown out of proportion.  This guy has be lauded by everyone who has ever coached or played with him as an incredible leader and an incredible person.  But, all of these “isolated” incidents in one INCREDIBLY disappointing sophomore season would be non-issues, independently, but put them together and you start to question his makeup.  Well, you do.  I don’t.  I think the only two things that will keep him from being AT LEAST a decent NBA point guard are his abilities to shoot the ball and defend quicker NBA point guards.  Not his makeup.  Trust me.

MOST LIKELY SIXERS PICKS AT #10

Dario Saric
I know nothing about this guy other than the fact that he could be REALLY good…after at least a year or two stashed overseas.  I think he fits the Sixers at #10 pretty perfectly if they don’t luck into Randle or Gordon.  I want this Saric guy – sight unseen – A LOT more than any of the other guys in this grouping, whom I think are all a little shaky.

Gary Harris
I don’t know why, but I am not sold on Harris at the next level.  I know that he is a good kid, who has a good all-around game, but I don’t like NBA players that don’t have anything that they do at an above-average level.  He’s got average size and is an okay athlete.  He shoots it well, but not spectacularly.  He doesn’t have the handle to play regularly at the point.  He is a good perimeter defender, but not a shut-down kind of a guy.  He rebounds decently for a guard, but doesn’t strike me as someone who will make any difference on the glass in an NBA game.

Nik Stauskas
I was pretty luke-warm – somewhat cold, actually – on Stauskas until I found out that he measured at 6’7″ and crushed the athleticism tests at the combine.  Normally, I put almost no stock into those, but if you tell me that Stauskas is 6’7″ with borderline elite measurables in athleticism, I start to get intrigued.  We have seen his shooting ability from the day he stepped on to the court in Ann Arbor.  He is an elite jumpshooter.  Then, this year, with Trey Burke off to the NBA, we got to saw some elite playmaking ability, as well.  He also showed off an offensive game that was much more than just the shooter that he appeared to be as a freshman.  We also got to see a real spark in him, personally.  The dude has an attitude.  I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but it is something.  If I had to, I think I could really talk myself into Stauskas at the next level.  I still have my concerns, but I think I would take him ahead of both Harris and McDermott.

Doug McDermott
There is almost nothing funnier than listening to how media “experts” talk about guys like McDermott.  Inevitably, the expert either LOVES him and thinks he’s the next Larry Bird or HATES him and thinks he’s the next Adam Morrison.  Occasionally, you will get the “measured” assessment of calling him the next Kyle Korver.  I guess there really are no other possibilities for 6’9″ white guys who can shoot.  Either they’re a white all-time great (“Come on, the guy scored 3,000 points and was basically unstoppable) or they’re a white total bust (“Come on, the guy wasn’t even good enough to be recruited in the Missouri Valley Conference – he only went to Creighton because his dad was the coach”).  The reality is that other than his apparently distinct skin tone, his game doesn’t really resemble Bird or Morrison at all (and, don’t get me started on the LAZY white, Creighton alum Kyle Korver comparisons, because his game is NOTHING like Korver’s).  Anyone who actually watched him play can see that the guy has a style that is pretty unique.  People think he just roams the perimeter waiting for open jumpshots to take over guys 5 inches shorter.  That’s NOT true.  He actually spent most of his time with his back to the basket.  Yes, he is a lights-out shooter from the outside, but he also has a really nice, refined low post game.  All that being said, the dude couldn’t guard anyone in the Missouri Valley.  We all loved Jimmer (oh god, another white guy to compare him to…but, bare with me).  And, trust me, his game is NOTHING like Jimmer’s.  But, remember when we said that there will always be a place in the league for a guy that can routinely score 20 a night?  Well, Jimmer can score 20 a night in the NBA…and there ain’t no place for him because he gives up 40.  I am scared that McDermott might have the same thing going against him here.

USEFUL ROTATION PLAYERS

James Young
I actually really like Young and think he will be a solid NBA player.  I don’t think he’s even close to being worth the 10th pick and sure as hell won’t be there when the Sixers pick again at #32, so it’s a moot point from the Sixers perspective, but I think Young has a solid game that could transition well to the next level.  What he needs is a little meat on his bones.

Tyler Ennis
I’m not a huge fan of Ennis’s game at the next level from the perspective of a starting point guard, but I think he’s certainly capable of being a solid backup point guard, who can defend (we think, though we only saw him in the zone at the ‘Cuse) and distribute.  He also has length and is a good character guy.  Just don’t pick him thinking you’ve solved your point guard concerns.  On second thought, I may have said the same thing about MCW a year ago…and, oh by the way, I might still say that today about the reigning rookie of the year.

ROLLS OF THE DICE

Elfrid Payton
There are very few people who LOVE small-conference basketball more than I do.  And, if you have ever talked to me about college hoops, you probably first heard the names Damian Lillard, C.J. McConnell, and Norris Cole from me.  I LOVED all three of those guys and thought that they would all be really solid NBA players.  (For the record, I also thought that guys like Tony Mitchell, Isaiah Canaan, and Eric Maynor would be solid NBA players…)  Well, Payton should be right up my alley, but I really just don’t get the hype about him right now.  Is he a solid perimeter defender?  Yes.  Is he the next Gary Payton?  I seriously doubt it.  And, even if he was a true lock-down NBA defender on the perimeter, his offensive game is just not very good.  Trust me, I watched a decent amount of Ragin’ Cajun basketball this year.  The dude can’t shoot and is a turnover MACHINE.  He was a liability on the offensive end in the SUN BELT CONFERENCE.  Do we really think he will ever be serviceable in the EASTERN or WESTERN CONFERENCE?  As a late-first, early-second round flyer, he sounds like a GREAT pick.  As a lottery pick (I have seen him going as high as #7 to the Lakers), even this lover of small-school basketball says NO THANKS.

Jusuf Nurkic
I know literally nothing about this guy other than that he’s a legit big man.  If you still think that those are important in today’s NBA, then he might be a nice late-first round pick.

P.J. Hairston
The dude can flat-out score and might be the best pure shooter in the draft (with all due respect to Nick Stauskas).  But, he was kicked out of UNC (not exactly the easiest place to get kicked out of…) and is apparently a pretty terrible person.  If he had even an average head on his shoulders, he might be a legit lottery pick.  But, I wouldn’t go anywhere near him if I were the Sixers, even as an apparent steal at #32.

Kyle Anderson
One of the more bizarre players you will ever watch on a basketball court.  First of all, he’s a 6’9″ point guard who looks like he’s playing in slow motion.  But, he might be the best pure passer that I have seen at the college game in a really long time, and he has an INCREDIBLE basketball IQ.  He is always at the right place at the right time, is a willing rebounder and can shoot a little bit.  He kind of reminds me of a Pepe Sanchez a little bit on the offensive end.  On the defensive end, well, he kind of reminds me of a guy who can’t guard anyone ever at all.

Rodney Hood
I really have no idea what to think of Hood at the next level.  He is a decent shooter with size and is an adequate perimeter defender.  He is also aggressive to the basket.  But, I just don’t see any uniqueness about his game that makes me think that he will really make any impact.  I’d take a shot on him at #32, though I don’t think there’s any chance he gets there.  I think he is very similar to James Young, whom I think is a MUCH better prospect.

Mitch McGary
Don’t let one NCAA Tournament run fool you.  McGary had an up-and-down college career with more downs than ups.  Oh, and he missed his whole sophomore season because of a recurring back injury.  His skills are enticing (mainly because he’s got that Kevin Love big man passing ability), but he’s really not worth taking a flyer because even at his best, he barely looks like a reliable rotation guy to me.

DOES COLLEGE TRANSLATE?

Adreian Payne
I don’t think I have ever seen anyone improve over their college career as much as Adreian Payne did.  He turned himself into an elite college player by his senior year.  And – one of the most amazing things I have heard – he played his whole senior year with mono.  There is no doubt that Payne is a stellar guy with a great work ethic who has maximized his ability.  But, that’s kind of the problem.  Just like guys like DeJuan Blair and Jared Sullinger were, Payne is pretty much a finished product.  Is that product good enough to get decent minutes in the NBA?  Yes, I think so.  But, there is no star potential here.  He is what he is – which is a pretty good ballplayer.

Shabazz Napier
We all saw the Shabazz on display in the NCAA Tournament.  But, beware of over-hyping someone because of 6 games.  Was Napier one of the better on-court leaders in recent collegiate memory?  Absolutely.  Did he play incredibly well on both ends of the floor?  Without a doubt.  Is that going to make him a superstar at the next level?  Who knows.  I know everyone loves leadership, and generally, it is for good reason.  But, when it comes to jumping to the next level, not only do I think it’s overstated, but I think it might actually be dangerous.  Shabazz Napier is a tremendous leader for a team where he is The Man.  When everyone looks at him and says “you are our best player, we will follow you.”  Is Napier going to walk into an NBA locker room and be the best player?  Not even close (particularly in Miami, where he seems most coveted).  Will he be the same kind of person playing 15-20 minutes, mostly without the ball in his hands, guarding the other team’s weaker perimeter player?  I don’t know.  And, neither does anyone else.  I am not saying that he won’t be phenomenal as a role player, but are we really to believe that the character that it takes to lead is the exact same character that it takes to follow?

Jordan Adams
Adams is a terrific basketball player.  Period.  You are going to hear all sorts of things about his lack of athleticism and quickness.  But, the fact of the matter is that if you’re trying to round out a roster of the best basketball players, I find it hard to believe that Adams won’t be useful.  Will a 6’5″ shooting guard that can’t dunk be a superstar?  Absolutely not.  Can Jordan Adams be a useful 9th or 10th man?  I think so.

MY SLEEPERS

T.J. Warren
He may have climbed too high to be called a “sleeper,” but the kid can flat out play.  And, it is not like he should be an unknown, he was the 2014 ACC Player of the Year.  And, the dude can flat-out score.  He has deficiencies elsewhere in his game that makes it completely feasible that he is never even a regular starter in the league, but there is always room for a guy that is a decent ballhandler and defender, but can absolutely light up the scoresheet.  8 points and 2 assists in 15-18 minutes every night with at least serviceable perimeter defense?  There are a lot of guys in the league that give you less.  If he flips to #32, the Sixers should be elated to snap him up.

K.J. McDaniels
Now, this guy probably will constitute a “sleeper.”  I love McDaniels.  He’s a freak athlete, but also showed a surprisingly refined game this year at Clemson.  Very few people know anything about him because the Tigers were bad (and run a crazy slow offense), but I actually thought he was more deserving of ACC POY than Warren.  He is one of those guys that can do it all and probably play any of three positions (1,2,3) at both ends.  Someone is going to be really happy with their late-first, early-second round pick here.

Jarnell Stokes
I admit it.  Stokes is probably one of the many “big” men that are plenty big for even the biggest of college conferences and just not “big” enough for the NBA.  That being said, as the league goes smaller, it is not out of the question that you can sneak Stokes into your lineup as an undersized 5-man.  And, while he’s not really athletic enough to guard on the perimeter, he does have a decent 15-18 foot jumpshot.  I think, given the minutes, I could see him scoring 8-12 points a night.  And, we haven’t even talked about what makes him great (and will give him a place in this league) – he is one of the best pure rebounders that I have seen in a long time.  He is one of those guys that just has a knack for rebounding.  And, that plays on any level.  I would not be surprised if Stokes is still getting decent minutes in the 2020-21 NBA season for someone.  And, that’s value in the second round.

Jordan Clarkson
I like Clarkson a lot, actually.  He is big and almost freakishly athletic, and he’s a better scorer than he seems to be getting credit for.  I also think that people are underestimating his playmaking ability.  This is another guy that the Sixers should RUN to the podium to draft if he’s still on the board at #32.

Nick Johnson
I have no idea if his game translates to the pros, but he was quietly AWESOME at Arizona.  He was a quiet leader who can do just about anything you ask of him.  While his offensive game is lacking all-around, he may grow into a killer on defense.  I have heard nothing more than mid-second for Johnson, and I think someone may get a STEAL if they use a 2nd-rounder on him.  I hope it’s the Sixers (don’t they have the whole second round?)

Spencer Dinwiddie
While I’m not sure if there’s a place for Johnson, I am sure that – if healthy – there is a place in the league for Dinwiddie.  He’s a legitimate combo guard that can score from mid-range and beyond.  A big guard with a supreme shooting touch and great court awareness should be in the NBA somewhere.

C.J. Wilcox
There is always room for a guy who can flat-out shoot.  He’s not Klay Thompson, but he could be a poor man’s version.  Maybe…

Jahii Carson
I love this kis and realize that he’s TINY.  But, I think there’s a place in the league for a guy who distributes and scores the way he does.  Will he get abused on the defensive end?  Probably.  I still like him.

EHHH…

Jerami Grant
I’ve seen him everywhere from lottery to backend of the second round.  Either way, he should have stayed in school.  He’s got bust written all over him as a first-rounder, and intrigure written all over him as a second.

Glenn Robinson III
I was just never impressed.  He has all the physical tools (and obviously the bloodlines).  And, I guess at #32, I’d be okay with it, but ehhh…

LaQuinton Ross
No thanks.  Never liked him at OSU, and I have no reason to believe he’ll be any good at the next level.

INTERNATIONAL MYSTERIES

Clint Capela
I have no idea who this guy is.  It sounds like he is a LONG way from playing here anyway.

Damien Inglis
Apparently, this guy has an NBA-ready body at 19.  He’s raw, but promising.  Sounds like he’d be a nice lottery ticket to own.

Nikola Jokic
A skilled big man?  That’s so European…

INTRIGUING

Cleanthony Early
Here’s another one where I really have no idea.  My instincts say he’s just too small to really make it in the league, but he has a fascinating versatile game that is fun to watch.  I’m rooting for him, that’s for sure.

Johnny O’Bryant
O’Bryant is a beast inside that should have stayed at LSU.  He’s a project, but has a TON of ability.  Take a flyer here; you may be glad you did.

DeAndre Daniels
Looked great in the tournament.  Has tantalizing skills.  Needed another year at UConn.

Deonte Burton
The dude can flat-out play.  Not an incredible shooter, but a great athlete with good court vision and really knows the game.

Russ Smith
After all, he is Russ-diculous.

Dwight Powell
Very cerebral player who has a versatile game that would probably translate somewhat.  I wonder about his drive, though.

Keith Appling
Hey, we haven’t really seen him healthy in two years.  I don’t think he’s good enough, but it wouldn’t shock me.

Cory Jefferson
Just a freak of an athlete at his size.  I guarantee he’ll get a shot.  And, he’ll probably screw it up because, well, that’s what he does.

Deandre Kane
Kane might just be one of those guys that is so good in college and just doesn’t have “it” – whatever “it” is – to stick in the NBA.  But, trust me, this guy wasn’t just good his senior year at Iowa State, he was DOMINANT for three years are Marshall before that.  He is almost the definition of a “do-it-all” point guard.  He scores, he creates, he rebounds, he defends, and he leads.  I would give him a shot on my team any day.

C.J. Fair
Here’s another guy who probably won’t make the league, and I won’t know why.  What I do know is that someone, somewhere on this planet, will be paying C.J. Fair to play basketball for their team.  But, it’ll probably be in Greece or Spain.

Melvin Ejim
Kane’s teammate at Iowa State, Ejim is very intriguing to me.  He’s big with a great scoring touch (he went for 40 one night this year).  He’s probably too small to play inside and too slow to play outside, but he really can do both rather well.  It’s a shame that he probably can’t do either well enough.

OTHERS

Semaj Christon
Crazy athlete with a dynamic game.  He could use a couple more inches, but I wouldn’t be surprised (or upset if it were the Sixers) to see him taken in the mid-second.

James Michael McAdoo
Stay away.  The dude stinks.  And, the worst part about it is that he doesn’t care that he stinks.

Roy Devyn Marble
Probably simply not good enough to play in the league, but he’s got a great game and will score a TON of points overseas.

Jordan McRae
If he only played defense…  McRae can shoot more than his bruising frame suggests.  He could use a little more focus on his floorgame and a lot more attention to the defensive end.  But, the kid might be worth a flyer because he has skills that very few human beings in this world possess.

Khem Birch
Intriguing athlete with a crazy long wingspan.  All you hear about these days is “rim protector” this or “rim protector” that.  Well, he is a rim protector.  He doesn’t really do ANYTHING else, but he does protect the rim.

Bryce Cotton
This is another one that makes me sad to know that there is no room for Bryce Cotton in the pros.  If Cotton can’t score 15 a night in the NBA (and, he probably can’t), then those pros are SCARY good because this kid is a scoring machine – who can also distribute rather well, when he wants to.  He’s not a good defender and probably won’t make a roster, but I’ll miss watching him fill it up at Providence.

Joe Harris
“Joe College Player” will be missed in the college game and almost assuredly won’t be missed from the professional game.  Harris is one of those guys that I wish had like 8 years of college eligibility.

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